Book Review – The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith


BLURB: Tom Ripley is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors and the law, when an unexpected acquaintance offers him a free trip to Europe and a chance to star over. Ripley wants money, success and the good life and he’s willing to kill for it. When his new-found happiness is threatened, his response is as swift as it is shocking. – Vintage Books edition

REVIEW: One of THE thriller classics, this book had been on my TBR list for ages! I had already delved into Patricia Highsmith’s work before, having devoured Strangers on a Train (great book by the way, highly recommend) and thought it was time I get started on this eponymous novel. Now I’ll admit that I watched the film first ages ago. It is a fantastic film and I can now safely say it does the book great justice and I’d maybe even go as far to say that it slightly improves on it (I may be biased by the inclusion of jazz, but who knows).

I was actually lucky enough to read this book recently whilst I was on holiday in Rome which completely added to the sultry, hot European days Highsmith writes so well. The Talented Mr. Ripley takes us to the fictional town of Mongebello, an idyllic rustic Italian seaside town. But Highsmith doesn’t stop there, we even get to explore Paris, Rome, Venice and more. She makes these historic, enriching destinations sound so vital –

‘The streets were like veins, he thought, and the people were the blood, circulating everywhere’

If you were looking to escape to a book with summer-y destinations then The Talented Mr. Ripley is the one for you! Highsmith was just an absolute master at transporting her readers from the dregs of working life into the culture-heavy, warm embrace of eastern Europe and I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

Of course, this wasn’t just a travel book. At its heart is the incredibly enticing Tom Ripley who I would go as far to say is one of literature’s greatest creations. A complex character if ever there was one, a genius in his madness and someone who the reader can inexplicably root for at times during this book. A modern day Iago! Psychotic? Certainly. Enthralling? Absolutely. All at once Highsmith is able to make Ripley the most inhuman monster alongside a strange and uncomfortable empathy with the man who we logically know we should hate. Here is one of the most poignant moments in the whole book –

It struck Tom like a horrible truth, true for all time, true for the people he had known in the past and for those he would know in the future: each had stood and would stand before him, and he would know time and time again that he would never know them’

As much as I enjoyed this book, there were times when I simply had to put the book down and walk away for a while. Not because it was badly written, not because I wasn’t enraptured in the story, but because at times it was little too much. It was stressful and tense and at times I just felt overwhelmed with it. This didn’t stop me from reading it very quickly, but there were times I just needed a break from it before I could pick it up again. This is the only reason that the book lost half a star for me. I encourage anyone who loves a thriller, who revels in complex characters and who dreams of travel to read The Talented Mr. Ripley immediately, it is one not to be looked over.



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